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Supremacy battle between Kenya, Ethiopia in running continues
NAIROBI, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- The long-standing supremacy battle between East Africa's athletics powerhouses, Kenya and Ethiopia played out in 2009 over mid, long distance and road running surfaces with mixed results for both nations.
Having produced the first two five-time winners of the senior 12km men long race at the IAAF World Cross in John Ngugi and Paul Tergat, the emergence of Keninisa Bekele halted Kenya's dominance at the event.
Bekele surpassed Ngugi and Tergat in winning his sixth title in Edinburgh 2008 and with the Ethiopian missing this year, hopes were high the title would be reclaimed for the first time since 1999.
However, the Amman 2009 team of Leonard Komon (silver medallist2008), Matthew Kisorio, Mark Kiptoo, Mangata Ndiwa, Linus Chumba and favored Moses Mosop (silver 2007) failed to rise to the occasion as Ethiopia's Gebregziabher Gebremariam succeeded Kenenisa.
Meanwhile, the women's senior race atoned for the men's failings when Florence Kiplagat ended Kenya's 15-year wait for th etitle to emulate Pauline Chepkonga (1994) when she beat Linet Masai to gold. Kiplagat is married to Mosop.
Kenya lost both junior races to Ethiopia for the first time in almost a decade as Ayele Abshero and Genzebe Dibaba made Titus Mbishei and Maercy Cherono the bridesmaid in the men 8km and women6km events.
The 12th World Championships in Athletics provided the big stage for Kenya and Ethiopia to renew their intense rivalry. Kenyadrew first blood after Linet Masai became the first runner since Sally Barsosio to deny Ethiopia the 10,000m women's world title.
Record holder, Kenenisa Bekele shadowed Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese in the 10,000m final before engaging the afterburners to restore parity with Kenyans Moses Masai (bronze), Micah Kogo and Bernard Kipyego reduced to mere spectators.
Ezekiel Kemboi began and ended a frenetic race in the men's 3,000m steeplechase to edge Kenya in front before Vivian Cheruiyotand Sylvia Kibet's 1-2 in the women's 5,000m ensured the mid and long distance shut out for their bitter rivals.
It has to be noted that Olympic champion and record holder over 5,000m and 10,000m, Tirunesh Dibaba, was missing due to injury for Ethiopia, a factor that fuelled Kenyans to believe in victory.
At the season ending World Athletics Final, a fit Dibaba resumed normal service when she beat compatriot Meseret Defar and Cheruiyot to the tape in the women's 5,000m finale. Bekele restored some pride for Ethiopia by beating Kenyan born Bernard Lagat (USA) and the trio of Vincent Chepkok, Eliud Kipchoge and Joseph Ebuya to the top medal in the men's 5,000m final.
However, with four gold, five silver and two bronze to Ethiopia's two gold, two silver and four bronze medals from Berlin Worlds, Kenya, just like Beijing Olympics in 2008 earned the region's bragging rights.
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